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Chargers Put On Their Pads For First Time This Pre-Season


San Diego Chargers had their first practice on Sunday. Joining us on Morning Edition is North County Times sports columnist Jay Paris.

San Diego Chargers had their first practice on Sunday. Joining us on Morning Edition is North County Times sports columnist Jay Paris. Well, the players got to put on their pads for the first time Jay this pre-season. How does that change the dynamic of practice?

JAY PARIS (Sports Columnist): Football without pads is like breakfast you know, without eggs and bacon or something. It’s hard to get a grasp on a guy’s physical tools and physical skills when they’re running around in shorts and t-shirts. There’s been a lot of guys who impressed coaches when they’re just running around and not hitting. But you put those pads on - the true essence of football comes through. You can really tell if you got a prospect or not once they start hitting.

BROWN: And some developments over the weekend. The Chargers first-round draft pick, Ryan Matthews, the replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson , agreed to a five- year deal with the team. Is expected to take on most of the running load?

PARIS: Uh, he will. Along with Mike Tolbert and Darrin Sproles. But the Chargers gave up a lot to move up the draft board and get Ryan Matthews. And as stellar as their passing game was last year, they were horrible running the ball. Ryan Matthews now, he’s going to get $15 million guaranteed and got a shot at getting $25 million in the contract. He’s going to be asked to earn that money. A lot is going to tell how fast he can pick-up the pass protection and such. But he’s being counted on very heavily for the Chargers this year.

BROWN: Yeah, he was the leading rusher in college football last season right?

PARIS: He was. And this is a good kid too. I think more and more the Charger fans get to know him and they’ll embrace him. He’s has quite a story. He grew up homeless at one point, living out of his car with his mom. There’s some real depth to this guy. And the Chargers are counting on him for big things.

BROWN: Tight end Antonio Gates got a five-year extension. How important is he to the Chargers high-powered offense?

PARIS: He’s important as the bulls on the emblem. He’s really the guy who makes it go. You know LT, LaDainian Tomlinson, certainly got the lion’s share of the spotlight. But Antonio Gates is just a phenomenal player at his position. He’ll go in the hall of fame one day. He’s so good. He’s such a safety valve for Philip Rivers when he can’t find the downfield stuff. He can always dump it off to Gates and that’s usually a good way to go.

BROWN: And speaking of signings, the Padres, San Diego Padres signed Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick before the trade deadline. How will these guys contribute to the Padres playoff round?

PARIS: They’ll contribute mightily. Both of them have been in the playoff fire. Both of them are proven hitters. Ludwick will take a corner outfield position. Tejada will rotate around that left side of the infield. It’s quite amazing what the Padres have pulled off. And for them to be buyers at the trade deadline with the smallest payroll in the major leagues, one of them, it’s loading up the pick-up and heading Kobey’s Swap Meet to unload all your stuff and then you turn around and come home and you got more stuff. That’s pretty much what the Padres have done this year. And it’s all been fueled by this great year under the leadership of Bud Black.

BROWN: And the Pads head to L.A. for a four-game series against the Dodgers. Do you think they can get er’ done?

PARIS: They can get er’ done and they might just take a fork with them, up to L.A. and stick it in the Dodgers. The Dodgers have been horrible since June really. Four games under 500. They’re eight games back. They’ve lost five in a row. They’re really fading. We thought it would be a four-team race right down to the end. It might just be the Giants and the Padres battling it out. But the Padres have a big, big chance to really drive a stake through the Dodgers with four games up in L.A.

BROWN: Well, I wanted to mention, we got into this sports segment talking about this Mercury Insurance Open – women’s tennis tournament at La Costa. How big is that considering its not been here for awhile?

PARIS: It’s only been gone for two years, but it’s a rich history of women’s tennis here in San Diego and La Costa in particular. It was one of the most famous stops on the tour, because all the women and the players loved coming to La Costa. It’s neat to see it back. And I think it’s going to be here for a long time. It was a shame when it left. And you might mention too, Tuesday night, two local legends will be honored – Rod Laver, the great grand slam champion and a member at La Costa and Pancho Segura, their former tennis director. Another all-time great.

BROWN: North County Times Sport Columnist Jay Paris. Thanks Jay.

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